Stop Juggling: 6 Steps to Setting Priorities

Are you a juggler? My guess is you’re trying to be. There are work tasks to be completed, a home to keep up, maybe a few kids to shuffle around – and that’s not even beginning to touch upon the commitments you have outside of work and family. Even if you’re successfully managing to keep all these proverbial balls in the air without dropping one, odds are you’re feeling the stress and exhaustion of overwhelm. It’s time to put aside the juggling and prioritize your tasks.

1: Be honest about your time.

Today, we seem to wear being busy to the point of being harried like a badge of honor. It’s time to get real about how we’re spending our minutes. Start tracking what you’re doing throughout the day. Be honest. Jot down those minutes you spend watching cat videos and reading through your social media feeds, as well as the time you dedicated to hammering out progress on your big projects. What can you eliminate or limit to free up time?

2: Write down your goals.

Think through your long-term and short-term targets. Write these goals down, as well as an outline of steps you’re going to take to complete them. As part of this process, consider the value that each of these goals holds for you. Writing them down helps solidify where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there.

3: It’s not all about your goals, though.

The reality is we have tasks that must be performed that simply don’t have anything thing to do with our goals, at least not directly. That doesn’t mean they can be ignored. Get these down on paper too.

4: Identify how much time you have available to give, really.

You’ve got buckets for self-care, work, family, and others. Be honest about how many hours a day you can deposit in each bucket. Do not short-change the self-care bucket!

5. Realize you can’t do it all.

Take a good, honest look at the first four steps. Are you making efficient use of your time? Assuming you are, do your lists from steps 2 and 3 demand more time than you allocated to their respective buckets in step 4? Ask the hard questions: Can you shuffle your time to accommodate your task lists? Can you do so without sacrificing something that’s important to you, or something that you can’t afford to give up? How would your task list shake out if you had to force-rank it? This is a process of ranking what must be done in order of its value or necessity, assigning a time allocation to each of those items, and then drawing a line where you run out of resources required to accomplish the list. Everything above the line is a focused priority. Everything below gets your attention if there’s any time left. If you find there are things below the line that simply can’t be ignored, it’s a sign that you need to adjust either your priority ranking or how you’re allocating your time across each bucket.

6. Re-evaluate from time to time.

What is important to you today may not be important to you several months or years from now. Set aside time every quarter to revisit your list of priorities.